Japan and Georgia both qualified for the 2007 Rugby World Cup today, Japan beating Korea 54-0 in Asia's final and Georgia drawing 11-11 with Portugal to maintain the 14-point lead they built on home soil two weeks ago.
Japan will start their sixth RWC campaign against Australia in Lyon on 8 September, followed by matches against Fiji, Wales and Canada. Korea, runners-up in Asia, will return to the battlefield against Tonga in the RWC Repechage early next year.
The quietly spoken Korean coaching advisor former All Black John Boe – a former coach of Samoa and the Pacific Warriors - was aware of the enormity of the task for his side and in the end the lack of match practice was their major undoing against a team playing inspired rugby.
Japanwere clinical in their approach as they took the Koreans apart with consummate skill. The scrum was rock-solid and the back five had a roaring game, with Philip O’Reilley and imaginatively named Tongan-born second rower Luatangi Samurai Vatuvei in majestic form. After about five minutes of exciting exchanges Japanese hooker Mitsugu Yamamoto was driven over for the first of Japan’s eight tries - a significant break during a period of Korean domination.
Diminutive Japan full back Go Aruga regained his kicking form and slotted is first of seven conversions before scoring the second Japanese try after a superb individual effort of about 60 yards that saw him sidestep and outrun the entire Korean defence.
The Koreans returned to attack with a vengeance but their lack of match practice let them down against an opponent who seemed prepared to absorb anything they threw at them and just before half time Phillip O’Reilly scored again for Japan.
After half time Korea tried briefly to regain the upper hand but superior Japanese fitness and indeed ability denied them any opportunity to take control. Instead, Japan captain Daisuke Ohata switched into top gear after a rather quiet first half to amass an impressive hat-trick of tries, taking his world record tally to 69 in 58 matches. With Ohata leaving the field it was the turn of his left wing team mate Hirotoki Ozonawa to score the final try, duly converted by Aruga.
"I am pleased with the team's performance tonight and I am as pleased with the eight tries we scored as I am with the zero indicating the Korean score. I thought we defended well and I must give credit to the team who worked very hard and wanted to play well,” new Japan coach John Kirwan said.
Japan try Scorers: (in order) Mitsugi Yamamoto, Go Aruga, Luatangi Samurai Vatuvei, Phillip O’Reilley, Daisuke Ohata, Daisuke Ohata, Daisuke Ohata, Hirotoki Ozonawa
Georgia qualify for France
In Lisbon, Portugal improved from their display in Tblissi to draw 11-11 with Georgia, however the Georgians' 14-point lead from that first leg books their World Cup place as Europe 3.
Portugal now go on to play Morocco over two legs for the right to take on Uruguay for the other repechage qualifying place.